Five Ways To Edit

J. L. Harland   •   January 13th, 2020

So, weeks or months have passed, and you type THE END and sigh with relief. That’s it then. Unfortunately, not. The journey has really just started. Our first draft of What Lies Between Them took a mere four months. 80,000 words on the page and we felt very satisfied. But that was only the tip pf the iceberg, so to speak. The hard slog was just beginning. This article may provide you with some ideas on how to deal with the edits and not become too despondent. Some people edit as they go along. We work on the principle of getting those words on the paper and then refining it.

  1. First thing to do is to put the work aside and let it sit for a while. Work on something else – a short story, flash fiction, poetry or planning your next big project. It’s hard to do but you will come back with a fresher eye.
  2. Read aloud. If you have a writing group or a writing buddy then read your work to them. If not, then take yourself off to a quiet room and read out loud. It’s amazing how many repetitions and nuances of meaning become more apparent when those words are voiced. It is also a good way to judge the flow and rhythm. Do you need a break at that point? Were the words difficult to say? Did you have to repeat a sentence because it didn’t scan properly? Reading to an audience is invaluable.
  3. Ask a writer friend to help. Some people are especially talented at spotting errors. Do you want a grammar edit or just a developmental review? Whatever you do, don’t rely on spellcheck. When reviewing, we often saw writing which stated, ‘I’d defiantly read that again.’ The computer replaced definitely with defiantly and it wasn’t noticed.
  4. Edit, edit and edit again. Printing out can help. It’s easy to read what you think is on screen and sometimes mistakes are made which can be spotted more easily on paper. Things to watch out for are repetition of words and phrases. Writing tics.
  5. As a last resort you can pay for a professional edit or take an editing course. Writing magazines are full of advertisements for editors. The best thing is to ask for recommendations from others. Many publishers and agents will want to know if you’ve had a professional edit, seeing that as a commitment. Others will edit in-house.

The main thing to remember when editing is that if it doesn’t work – cut it. ‘Murder your darlings,’ as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said. Be vicious. Be ruthless. Don’t give up.